Minus Proper Archives, News Outlets Risk Losing Years of Backstories Forever
Print stories can be lost, but digital stories last forever, captured for eternity in some nebulous internet ether or on a hard drive in a desk drawer. At least, that’s the vague theory assumed by many producers and consumers of digital news. Once something is posted or backed up, it never really disappears—and if that’s true, archiving digital work seems less urgent. That line of thinking is exactly why so many news organizations risk losing years’ worth of stories.
As we move deeper into the digital era, we’ve recognized the need to preserve and digitize print content, but we’re still in the early stages of understanding how we safely archive our digital news. A survey released last week by The Missouri School of Journalism’s Donald W. Reynolds Institute shows how much outlets are losing when they don’t effectively archive their work, which many do not.
Among the 476 digital and hybrid news organizations that participated in the survey, 27 percent of hybrid news organizations and 17 percent of online-only enterprises said they’ve experienced a significant loss of news content due to technical failure. To Edward McCain, the digital curator of journalism at the institute, these numbers confirm a very basic but largely overlooked fact of digital media enterprises: Digital content is fragile and easily lost.